New Read: The Romanovs

The Romanovs

After reading Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport, about the heart breaking fate of the daughters of the final Romanov Tsar, I was keen to read more. So when I spotted The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles I snapped it up.

In this book Cowles chronicles the ups, downs, dreams, disasters and extreme personalities of the Romanov dynasty which lasted for just over 300 years in Russia; from 1613 to 1917. Of course the infamous final Tsar Nicholas II (1894-1917) and the fateful end for him and his family is in this book, however it is one of the shorter chapters. More time is spent on older characters like Peter the Great (1696-1725) a power hungry, innovative and revenge filled despot. And also the German princess who snatched the thrown from her weak husband Peter III, who went on to be known as Catherine the Great (1762-1796).

What I found most interesting though were the less known characters. Such as the first and rather unwilling Romanov Tsar; Michael (1613-1645). The country was in turmoil after the Rurik dynasty ended so church leaders and land owners came together to choose the 16-year-old Michael who’d previously been living quietly in Ipatiev Abbey (which ironically is not far from Ekaterinberg where the dynasty would so cruelly end). I was also fascinated and a little sad to learn more about Alexander II (1855-1881); known as the Tsar-Liberator. Alexander was a reformer who opened up education, freedom of speech and finally ended the cruel practice of serfdom. Yet he was sadly assassinated for his efforts.

I found this a fascinating and a good overview of this long reigning royal family. I had never read or heard of Virginia Cowles before. I was unlikely to have either because this book was first published in 1971; which I was unaware of when I picked it up. The style and knowledge in the book has aged very well – I wouldn’t have realised this wasn’t a new book. This edition I read is a 2015 republication by Endeavour Press. It has been interesting reading about other book bloggers who have recently been reading Endeavour Press republications too; without realising I was enjoying one myself!

The Romanovs was a fascinating, colourful and educational read for me. It has certainly wetted my appetite for even more books about the Romanovs and Russian history. Great read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Can you recommend any Romanov fiction or non-fiction I could read next?

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17 thoughts on “New Read: The Romanovs

  1. It’s such a fascinating period in history I can understand you enjoying it. I really should make some time for non-fiction but it just isn’t happening at the moment. Never say never though.
    Lynn 😀

  2. Endeavour Press seem to be publishing lots of fascinating non-fiction books, though I have only tried some of their fiction so far. I’m glad you found this such a good read – I love reading about Russia but don’t know much about the individual Romanovs, so I would be interested in reading both this and the Helen Rappaport book.

    1. Helen, I hope you are able to get your hands on a copy of this and/or the Helen Rappaport book. I highly recommend both as I found them fascinating and they’d be good to help you find out more about individual Romanovs.

    1. This certainly was a fascinating read 🙂 I watched a couple of episodes of a recent BBC documentary on The Romanovs, presented by Lucy Worsley, which was very good. I presume that’s the one you were watching too. Actually I have enjoyed all of Lucy Worsley’s documentaries and one her books. The documentary and book about the British fascinating with murder mysteries was particularly good 😀

      1. Yes that’s the one! I’ll have to check that other one out. I definitely need to get back into the swing of reading non-fiction again. Since I started the blog it’s rather fallen to the wayside!

        1. I hope you are able to get back into reading non-fictions again – I had the same problem when I stared my blog. Especially as I had not long finished university and I just wanted to enjoy whatever I fancied instead of all the text books and non-fictions I had to read before.

  3. Great review. The Romonovs history intrigues me, my personal spot in history that I cannot get enough of is anything to do with the Titanic, I have recently bought and currently reading a non-fiction book on the subject.

    I do not know much about the Romonovs but would like to know much more. I might check this book out sometime soon.

    1. Thank you Emma, I am pleased you enjoyed this post so much and I hope you are able to check out this book. I can also understand your interest in the Titanic – not long after the film came out I read and watched a lot about it but sadly hardly anything recently.

  4. There’s The Kitchen Boy and Rasputin’s Daughter, both by Robert Alexander (both short and great). Also, Russka by Edward Rutherfurd, as Judy mentioned; Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, both by Robert K. Massie (non-fiction)

  5. I am assuming this is non-fiction, am I right? I have read Russka by Edward Rutherfurd, his novel of Russian history that includes the Romanov family among others. It is long but very good! In March one of my reading groups will read and discuss Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, published in 1866. That was during the reign of Alexander II who you mentioned opened up freedom of speech, etc. While reading your review I realized that is probably why there was such an outpouring of literature during that time. I will check out The Romanovs. Thanks for reading and reviewing it.

    1. Yes this is non-fiction Judy and thank you for the recommendation 🙂 You are not the only one to mention Russka by Edward Rutherfurd so I will definitely need to keep it in mind. Good luck to you and your book group with reading Crime and Punishment – I find reading the Russian classics so scary! Hence why I am currently watching the BBC’s War and Peace series; the cheats way to find out what it is all about 😀 It is really interesting and makes sense that there was an outpouring of literature during the reign of Alexander II. It makes me want to read even more about him.

  6. These Endeavour Press repubications do look interesting. I haven’t had time to try any of them yet, so it’s good to hear that you found they’d picked a good one.

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